Jan. 13—Fancy footwork and big ears were behind some of the awards given to Westmoreland County residents at this week’s Pennsylvania State Farm Show.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Two teams from the Westmoreland Squares 4-H Club earned blue ribbons for getting all the correct steps in their square dance performance. And a girl from North Huntingdon saw two of her rabbits take top honors in the English Lop breed, known for its extra long ears.
This year’s dance competition at Harrisburg’s New Holland Arena featured approximately 50 classes of four couples each, each starting with a perfect score, which was reduced by the judges for any incorrect moves.
“These are not just ordinary do-si-dos or outings,” said Kathy Noel, one of the adult leaders of the 22-member club. “The calls can sometimes be very advanced.”
This included the “Teacup Chain”, a complex figure that teams performed flawlessly during the last of the competition’s five dances.
“It’s almost like a kaleidoscope,” Noel said. “They’re going and changing partners constantly. If they had made a mistake, it would have torn the whole field apart.”
Unlike other 4-H clubs, there is no age limit for participation in Westmoreland Square.
“It’s supposed to be a community club,” Noel said. “We’ve had adults in the past. This is what we can get through together.”
Billy Weimer, 16, who lives on his family’s Loyalhanna Township farm, has shown livestock at local fairs and has been dancing at Westmoreland Square for nine years.
“We’re there to have a good time and dance a little,” Weimer said of the farm show. “I like hanging out with other kids and meeting friends.”
This year, Weimer’s main dance partner was another teenager, but last year he was paired with a 5-year-old girl.
“Getting everyone to dance at the same level can be quite challenging,” he said. “Working with little kids, you have to help them with things as well. It presents a whole new challenge, but sometimes that can make it more fun.
“Our classes are tailored for each group of kids. If you drag the chalk line, you get docked points.”
Each year, the Westmoreland Squares gather again in September and begin weekly Sunday afternoon practices at Trinity United Church of Christ in Delmont. They typically perform their dances at the Mount Pleasant Glass and Ethnic Festival and perform community service at the Delmont Apple ‘n Arts Festival on their way to their annual goal: competing in the State Farm Show.
“It’s a commitment,” Noel said, noting that it also keeps members physically active. “It’s a way to get your move on in one night.”
ribbon for rabbits
Nine-year-old twins Nick and Nora Rowland of North Huntingdon danced in Westmoreland Square this week and also displayed rabbits at the state show. The siblings additionally belong to the Sunshine 4-H Club, in which their parents, Jason and Allison, assist as leaders.
Nick’s rabbits didn’t place this year, but Nora’s female English Lop rabbit Ophelia captured the Best of Breed ribbon, while her male rabbit, Noggin, took Best Opposite Sex of Breed honors. The latter award is given to the top participant of the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.
The award-winning pair are among more than 20 rabbits that Nora is breeding either as pets or for competitive exhibition.
Of the two, Ophelia is the more restless and often escapes from her cage. “She just wants to move around and move around,” Nora said.
The show judges were more concerned with the quality of his fur and his ears, which span approximately 20 inches.
“Her ears are smooth and of good length,” said Nora, “she is only nine months old.”
Nora prepares her rabbits for another type of competition by guiding them to jump over low obstacles. “I take a little salad to get them jumping,” she said.
She entered an English spot rabbit in a hopping competition. But, his father said, “it was beaten by half a second by another English spot.”
Still, there are several more shows coming up, including one hosted by the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association in Lancaster in February.
Vandergrift’s Allusion Brewing Company enjoyed the fruits of its labor at the State Farm Show, winning first place in the specialty fruit beer category – for its Cranberry Peach Cobbler Sour. It is one of six varieties in the company’s “Mochi” series of craft brews, which also includes a cherry-flavored beer.
Well, take a sour beer base and add fruit and spices to make it taste a little bit like a piece of pie,” said John Byranowski, co-owner and head brewer of Illusion.
According to Robert Buchanan, Bieranoski’s partner at Allusion Brewing, timing is everything when determining which beers to include in a farm show. He’s helping to build a second location in Allison Park that will feature a kitchen, bar and live musical entertainment.
“We have a constant flow of beer brewing,” Buchanan said. “The categories of the competition change every year, so it really comes down to: Do we have a beer ready that fits into a category?
“Beers are submitted in late November, judging takes place in mid-December, and the winner is announced the first week of January.”
Last summer, Allusion’s American Light Lager won first place at the Indiana Brewers Cup, held in the state of Indiana. But Bieranoski said taking home the award at the Pennsylvania Farm Show has the added benefit of highlighting the company’s beverages in front of a more local audience.
“There is a large population in the state that is interested in farm shows,” he said. “This gives us a good local representation.”
The blue ribbon could become part of a winning tradition in Harrisburg this year. At the 2023 State Farm Show, Allusion Brewing received two first place awards: for its Key Lime Pie Cobbler sour and for Dragon’s Thirst, a wheat beer.
Ekta Paneer honored
Another repeat Farm Show winner was The Creamery at Pleasant Lane Farms, which won Best of Show this year with its Young Gouda cheese for eight weeks. ,
“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Jason Fry, head cheesemaker and partner at Unity Creamery. “This is a product we are working hard on for regional use and hopefully some national distribution as well.
“We’re going for a very traditional Gouda flavor. We want it to be very smooth and very creamy. Just starting to develop hints of caramel and nutty undertones.”
In the various cheese categories, Pleasant Lane scored first-place wins with Young Gouda and its 1795 Reserve Farmstead Cheddar, as well as a second-place showing with its 1976 Reserve Aged Gouda and its Jalapeño Habanero Farmstead Cheddar. These two dates refer to the years when Frye’s ancestors began farming in Salem Township and when his family founded Pleasant Lane.
At last year’s Farm Show, Pleasant Lane achieved second best in show with its 1795 Reserve Cheddar and first place in the Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack category. At the 2022 show, it placed second with its Gouda variety, while taking top place with its Quark Spreadable soft cheese.
The latest awards come as Pleasant Lane Creamery prepares to expand operations, adding a new brine tank with automated features and converting a shipping container into an above-ground “cave” for the controlled aging of cheese. doing. The improvements are supported by a nearly $300,000 grant awarded by the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This will not only boost our production, but will also ensure consistency of the best quality cheese,” Frye said.
Jeff Himmler is a TribLive reporter covering the Greater Latrobe, Ligonier Valley, Mount Pleasant Area and Derry Area school districts and their communities. He also reports on transportation issues. , As a journalist for more than three decades, he loves digging deep into local history. He can be reached at [email protected].